Whistler's first supermarket, The Grocery Store, is changing hands after nearly three decades.
Bob and Sue Adams, owners of the Village Square location since 1988, have officially sold the store to longtime fresh food manager Mike Groot and his wife Heidi. The deal, which includes the purchase of Delish Café in Function Junction, was finalized on March 29.
"I didn't want to (sell), but there's a time in life when you've got to make decisions like this. We thought it was best to do it when we were able to do it right," said Adams when reached by phone on vacation in Australia. "We've had it for 27 years and it's been a great 27 years."
The Adams were adamant the store remain locally owned, and when Mike, a Grocery Store employee for the last 22 years, expressed interest, it was the perfect fit.
"We wanted to keep it in local hands, keep our culture and not have it become a corporate store," said Mike. "We hope to hold up that legacy and build on it."
For the Groots, upholding that legacy means "making it more than just a place to buy milk."
"We're going to continue to have The Grocery Store be a platform in the community. To us, it's so far beyond being grocers, but about having a foundation within the community to use and advocate for things we're passionate about," Heidi said. "The Adams really, really showed us that. We were just dumb kids way back when and (Sue) sent us to chamber meetings and arts council meetings and events at Millennium Place. She worked really hard to show us what it's like to network and be a part of the community."
To that end, Mike said he's planning to offer two paid days off to all his staff so they can volunteer at a non-profit of their choice, just another way he hopes to build on the spirit of philanthropy the Adams have instilled into the business' DNA.
"We'd like to support our staff in kind and have our staff be engaged with the community and give back to a community that's given us so much," he said. "You can put that in the article and put a challenge out to other business owners as well: They should support the organizations that make up the fabric of what Whistler is."
First opened in 1981, The Grocery Store served as a community hub for young locals in its early years — a role that continues to some extent today — and developed alongside the resort it calls home.
"It's a little place in history. I won't be as arrogant to say it is what (infamous ski bum squat) Toad Hall was, but for us and the people that came (to Whistler) in the early '90s, The Grocery Store was the meeting place," said Heidi. "I think that our starting place right now is to improve on that family social culture and just be the place where people will want to shop."
Perhaps the greatest testament to the culture the Adams have created is the high employee retention rate the store has enjoyed over the years — particularly in a place like Whistler where lightning-quick turnover is the norm.
"We have a very stable core group of employees, which is unusual in Whistler," Sue said. "We pay a fair wage and we make sure there are good benefits. It's something as a team we worked really worked hard to create, a good culture, and I think it's enviable in Whistler."
Although he acknowledged the Adams leave big shoes to fill, Mike vowed to continue taking good care of The Grocery Store "family."
"We've just got amazing people. Our senior management team has been with us for 15 years-plus and we have a lot of great staff in the store and we do a great job of looking after them," he said. "We call them the alumni when they leave, and they send us their friends and family to work in the store every year so we can continue that continuity of the culture and make sure people have the best time of their lives when they're here in Whistler."